On 1 January 1889, during a solar eclipse, Wovoka, a medicine man of the Paiute tribe in Nevada, had a blinding vision. After a century in which the white man had almost destroyed the Indian nations, Great Spirit would soon return to cleanse the land. The white man would drown when “big flood comes like water.” Indians who lived peaceably, believed in the prophecy and danced the special dance seen by Wovoka during his epiphany would be saved. To a nation on the bring of extermination this was music to their ears. Word spread like wildfire across the network of reservations dotted around the United States. And so the dancing began—for days at a time.

Wovoka’s revelation was truly apocalyptic and included the resurrection of the dead: “All dead Indians come back and live again. They all be strong just like young men, be young again. Old blind Indian see again and get young again and have fine time.” Wovoka prophesied that this cataclysmic event would occur in the spring of 1891. All good prophets know to predict apocalyptic events long after their own deaths; you can still claim the credit if they come early.

All good prophets know to predict apocalyptic events long after their own deaths; you can still claim the credit if they come early.

Son of a medicine man

Wovoka, born in the 1850’s, was the son of a medicine man. After his father died he was raised by a devout Christian rancher, David Wilson, who called Wovoka ‘Jack’. Returning to the Paiutes in young adulthood, Wovoka mixed his traditional Indian rhetoric with a good dose of messianic Christianity, creating a heady brew of universal love and redemption that appealed to the tribes shattered by the Indian Wars of the previous decades. Wovoka also attracted followers from the white settlers, suggesting that his message was genuinely universal and not race-specific.

The prophecy, of course, did not come to pass. Wovoka’s spirit dance—pejoratively translated as ‘ghost dance’ by the white authorities—faded into the prairie grass. So did its author, who died in 1932. The ghost dance prophecy has long been forgotten, despite being central to the massacre at Wounded Knee creek in December 1890 that effectively ended Indian opposition to the reservation system.

Prophet of Ascension?

Yet is there more to it than a bizarre pot-pourri of native and Western traditions? Wovoka’s writings contain an interesting admonition: “Indians who don’t dance, who don’t believe in this word, will grow little, just about a foot high, and stay that way. Some of them will be turned into wood and be burned in fire.”

It’s an interesting analogy for the current Ascension times. Peacefulness—i.e. non-judgement—is essential for reducing tension in our increasingly hyper-stressed world. Those who can’t resolve their internal tensions in a managed, non-violent way will increasingly be swept away by mental or physical breakdowns, financial failures or rage-fuelled conflagrations. I know I’m cherry-picking the evidence, but I can’t escape the underlying sense of certainty in Wovoka’s words. How else would a 19th century medicine man describe a multidimensional event that even the most eloquent Ascension writers struggle to encapsulate?

Was Wovoka a prophet of Ascension? Perhaps he did see something in that blinding solar eclipse on New Year’s Day of 1889. Just, like many a discredited prophet, in his desperation to bring good news to his shattered people he got the timing wrong.